REED CITY — The Accelerated Learners Program Sequence, (ALPS), developed for Reed City students to provide them advanced classes like the Ferris Math and Science Center, has done very well in its first year.

Currently just freshmen are enrolled in the program of math and science classes. Ryan Hansen has been working with the students in math.

“With the capabilities these students have, along with their strong work ethic, we are able to cover mathematics at a much deeper and accelerated pace,” he said. “We have already finished the entire geometry curriculum and have started in on Algebra 2.”

Students are finishing up this school year by creating a scaled version of their homes using the math skills they have learned. Using these floor plans, they will then determine the various costs that went into building their home. It’s a very practical project that brings awareness to the students of what homeowners face financially.

The science portion, taught by Dave Carlson, has provided a lot of hands on teaching for the students. The major project for the class this year was to study the Hersey River.

“I wanted them to think like scientists and apply the scientific study in real life, not just sit in the classroom,” noted Carlson.

This included several trips to the Hersey River in the area that had been occupied by the Koppers Railroad Tie Plant, which is also downstream of the current wastewater treatment plant. Students started by surveying the habitat, looking at the characteristics of the river and assessing vegetation, erosion and pollution. The fun came when they got to head into the river and collect different invertebrates like mollusks, crayfish and insects. Looking at the presence or absence of certain creatures would help them determine the overall health of the river. Students took water samples, performing a number of tests to determine the quality of the water as well.

The class then compiled all their findings and gave an outstanding presentation to parents and community members. A panel of four community members with a background in science was present to ask questions of the students.

The presentation, “The Status of the Hersey River in Reed City”, began with a history of the Hersey River which supported a number of businesses over the years. The result of so many industries being located by the river was that it had become dangerously polluted and there was the fear it would not recover. Knowing this info makes the project a very important one to the class, because it relates to something close to their home, the river that their families spend time in and around.

“It all makes me think about what we are putting in the water and what we are doing around the water,” reported Dakota Cornell.

The results of each test performed on the river was assigned a grade by the students, which were then put together to give the Hersey River a final grade depicting its overall health and quality. Majority of the testing was to determine the water quality index. After looking at the pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate levels, turbidity, temperature, coliform bacteria and phosphorous levels, the total score of 84 points gave the river a B grade. This is good considering the river was in such bad shape in its past. In addition to specific testing, the finding of large variety of species ranging from pollution tolerant to pollution intolerant gave the river an A grade suggesting a lower amount of pollution.

“I learned the Hersey River is a lot cleaner than I had actually thought,” said Derek Ludholtz.

Students became very involved the future of the river and have already put together recommendations for further studies. The freshman class entering the ALPS program in the fall of 2011 will be doing studies in the Hersey area.

The entire ALPS program is definitely a challenging one; however the students from its first year have only good things to say about it.

Alaina Woodard summed it up best when she gave this answer to a panel member asking what the students liked most about the program.

“We liked that there was some hands on type of learning with our friends and not just a lot of bookwork in the classroom.”

Emily Burke added, “It was a fun, more interesting way to learn by seeing what we are doing rather than just reading it. And I feel like we are getting further ahead.”